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Employee of the Month

Folks, the mystery of life is something foreign to all of us. Who in a perfect world would in their right mind consider having the likes of rising joyboy Dane Cook and voicebox vixen Jessica Simpson headline a mainstream comedy? At least Texan-tongued songbird-turned-actress Jessica Simpson, who’s stacked better than the Library of Congress, provides guilty pleasure eye candy for the masses to appreciate. Casting Simpson is a window-dressing tactic so you do what needs to be done in order to capitalize on potential ticket buyers. But the real question remains unanswered about the soaring popularity of Boston-bred yuckster Dane Cook. Supposedly, Cook is the best-selling stand-up comedian working the rounds today. Personally, his appeal is baffling to say the least. Nevertheless, the filmmakers decided to put this tandem together with their loyal head-scratching followings in hopes of mustering up an infectious, irreverent comedy.

In the super-silly slacker laugher Employee of the Month, director Greg Coolidge (“Sorority Boys”) concocts this dimwitted ditty with all the promised precision of a ripped shopping bag. Carelessly moronic and dissolving, Employee is about as cheekily inspired as purposely spilling a sack full of marbles in front of a retirement home. Colossal in its intended dumbness, Coolidge’s extraneous vehicle is a naughty-minded washout and further reminds us of how unpolished the leads are in the chintzy personas of Simpson and Cook. There’s nothing remotely funny or devilish about this cringe-inducing material that borders on being needlessly crude and contemptible. Employee of the Month wouldn’t even give a fifth grade production about poisoned mushrooms an adequate run for its money. Needlessly pointless, the pesky personalities that roam the store lanes in this lame farce certainly do not deserve a marked down discount for our comedic consideration.

Painfully, Cook mugs his way through this wretched retail romp as Zack, an unmotivated employee at a huge, encompassing Wal-Mart-oriented superstore. Although his shelf-stocking duties don’t require much forethought, Zack is content with winging things and doesn’t mind his fellow co-workers picking up the slack for what he lacks in focusing on his dead end job. So as Zack continues to be stuck in his everyday malaise, he’s simply put on cruise control and embraces his laziness with shameless abandonment.

Enter blonde bombshell Amy (Simpson). She’s the new hot-bodied commodity as the store’s newest cashier. Suddenly, sparks start to ignite for Zack as his weary workplace is finally worth the effort in shaping up his job-related duties. Evidently Zack finds out that in order to capture Amy’s affections, he must be an attentive worker and show some uncharacteristic drive to impress her. You see Amy is only attracted to ambitious sorts and these are the only guys that will romantically draw her carnal interests. So by capturing that “Employee of the Month” title Zack realizes that he has a shot at busting the moves on the delicious dollar-handling diva Amy whose radiance at the cash registers has him going completely batty.

However, there’s a price to pay in order for Zack to scoop Amy and look “productive” in her eyes. Namely, the main obstacle is Vince (Dax Shepard). As the glorified go-getter and current Employee of the Month recipient, Vince is a tough act to follow and very well may be the stiff competition that gives Zack the constant discomfort in conforming to the rules of being a standout worker. Plus, it doesn’t help matters that Zack is sacrificing his friendship with the other co-workers in order to court Amy with his new and improved attitude toward his job performance. Alienating his buddies for the taste of Amy’s yummy lips is something that Zack must co-exist with if he’s to score with his curvaceous co-worker.

Granted that Employee of the Month could have been written with a thick crayon on the back of an empty milk carton. Not only is the direction jumpy and juvenile by Coolidge but he also helped co-write this messy mockery. While utterly interminable in its goofiness, Employee is unforgivable in its mean-spirited mode as well. The racy humor in reference to racial stereotypes (check out Napoleon Dynamite’s Efren (“Vote for Pedro”) Ramirez in another sluggish sidekick Latino lackey role) and the disabled and different (Danny Woodburn as the resident “little person” to smirk at on cue) feels cheap and desperate. And the obligatory physical antics and other drudged-up sight gags as created in the convenient world of consumerism never quite grasps the outrageousness that goes hand-in-hand with pushy purchasers and the slow-burning frustrations of underpaid retailers doing battle on the thankless front lines.

Instinctively, this movie should be clever enough to tap into the underlying tension, trivialities and boredom that was skillfully lampooned in an effective workplace witticism such as Mike Judge’s delightfully droll Office Space. This naturally could have been a half-decent gem of a cynically biting movie that knew how to mine its satirical touch. But Coolidge’s insistence on the tediously scattershot leanings of blue-collar buffoonery marred in cliche-driven idiocy basically strips this disposable romantic comedy of its offbeat sweetness, slickness and soul. The forced laughs in Employee of the Month are monotonously manufactured and are about as craftily salty as a can of stale pretzels in the snack aisle.

As the selected leads headlining this dopey dime-store chuckler, Cook and Simpson’s on-screen union has all the pizzazz of a free coupon for footpads. Cook’s Zack struts around with a Cheshire cat’s grin on his sleazy face while donning a copycat impishness that Steve Guttenberg had perfected during his nostalgic Police Academy movie series heyday. As for Simpson’s Amy, she bops back and forth and strangely seems awkwardly empty-minded as the so-called treasured object of affection. The various supporting players (Harland Williams, Brian George and Andy Dick) are more in tune with the bulk of the wackiness as the colorful co-workers. Occasionally, Dick does grate on the nerves in his turn as a blurry-eyed bespectacled clerk that gets tired fast. Shepard’s overachieving Dax is passable in his prickly skin as Cook/Zack’s eager beaver nemesis but his pomposity feels rather fluffy and standard in its dastardly shell.

Overall, there doesn’t seem to be much to the bargain-basement prices being bandied about in the staggeringly half-hearted Employee of the Month. Perhaps a permanent “Going Out of Sale” sign should be placed on its sliding entrance doors...or the box-office for that matter.

To know what movies are hits and which are flops, check out more in-depth reviews at Hollywood Insider.

Sin City

Walk down the right back alley in Sin City and you can find anything.

In all honesty I had never even heard of Frank Miller until Sin City, the movie, was released. I believe I'm speaking for many people and not just myself when I say that I am glad I did discover this talented writer. Aside from loving the film, I plan on dipping into the illustrated novels written by Frank Miller in the early 90's. I respect that the film was titled Frank Miller's Sin City, but I believe director Robert Rodriguez deserved more credit than he was given.

Although every word, clip, graphic, etc were taken exactly from the comic and original illustrations, it would have never of transpired to film without the imagination and experience of Rodriguez. I do not care for all of his films ie: the Faculty, Spy Kids series (what was that?), I am still a fan of the director and his more popular work. I am a fan of his earlier efforts and now his latest. El Mariachi, Desperado, and the grand daddy of them all...From Dusk Till Dawn; these remain the directors classics, but a successful Once Upon a Time in Mexico paved the way for Sin City.

Skinny little Nancy Callahan. She grew up. She filled out.

Sin City boasts an all star cast. I was really interested to see how all of these A list actors and actresses could work together in a movie and have it succeed. Most star studded movies suck and keeps plot and purpose from developing. This movie is different, firstly I had no idea about three different stories being told. This proved excellent and worked perfectly. Each actor contributed 100% to their character and I still have yet to find any flaws. Sin City was also the first movie to be shot entirely on a digital video camera. I am a true believer in film and 35mm but when it works and goes above and beyond anyone's expectations its worth it. The digital element really enabled Rodriguez to give the film the "comic book" look which he was trying to preserve from the start. Editing and directing didn't put too much emphasis on CGI, yet it is is taste full. I would much rather see puppets, miniatures, and stop motion photography...but this film still was able to bend the rules and I believe it set a standard to how movies will be filmed over the next century. She smells like angels ought to smell.

Bruce Willis proved his skills again in playing the role of Hartigan. Bruce Willis, Die Hard, Pulp Fiction, ultimate bad ass ...after his comedy stint with Matthew Perry in the retarded sequel to that movie I cant even think of its name, I thought his career was over. Not only did he regain my respect through Sin City he also stared in the blockbuster thriller Hostage. Willis played the role to a T and in watching the film you feel sorry for his situation from the start. When judging performances though, the best belongs to Mickey Rourke, the toughest "tough guy" in film today. Hell, they even made him look exactly like the character out of the graphic novel (comic). Critics say that Rourke was able to re-invent himself through this movie and that It will jump start his career. Being a big fan of his I hope that proves to be true. There is so much I say about this film, I really don't want to spoil it for potential viewers who have yet to see it. This movie is not trendy, nor is it glossy Hollywood garbage; It's an illusion of the mind ...something that really fucks with you. This film gets the ultimate approval rating.

Sin City Trivia

  • After a poor Hollywood experience in the early-'90s, Frank Miller refused to relinquish the movie rights to any of his comic works, "Sin City" in particular. Robert Rodriguez, a longtime fan of the comic, filmed his own "audition" for the director's spot in secret. The footage, shot in early 2004, featured Josh Hartnett and 'Marley Shelton' acting out the "Sin City" short-story "The Customer is Always Right". He presented the finished footage to Miller with the proclamation: "If you like this, this will be the opening to the movie. If not, you'll have your own short film to show your friends." Miller approved of the footage and the film was underway. Rodriguez also screened the footage for each of the actors he wanted to cast in the film - all of whom are reported to have been instantly amazed.
  • The cover of the Sin City book "Booze, Broads, and Bullets", can be seen periodically throughout the movie. Its most notable appearance is on the cover of the matchbook that Hartigan picks up to locate Nancy; it is also seen in the background of the strip club in the very next scene as Hartigan first enters (to the right as a poster).
  • Director, 'Robert Rodriguez' , can be seen, wearing his trademark white cowboy hat in Kadie's bar as Hartigan enters when he's looking for Nancy.
  • 'Robert Rodriguez ' originally envisioned 'Johnny Depp ' in the role of Jackie Boy. Due to prior commitments, Depp could not play the part. While at the Academy Awards, Rodriguez saw 'Benicio Del Toro ' with long hair ("Wolf Man" hair, as he describes it) and said that he "was looking at Jackie Boy". He told Del Toro not to cut his hair and mailed him the comic book and a copy of the short, "The Customer is Always Right." Del Toro immediately signed on.

For more interesting movie trivia, click here.

City of God

is the story of two boys growing up in one of the toughest slums in Brazil, where to survive one must live a life of crime and gangsterism.

The award winning film City of God is based on the true story of two boys growing up in a festering slum near Rio de Janeiro in the 1960's and 1970's. Focusing on the lives of two central characters, Rocket (Alexandre Rodrigues) and Ze (Leandro Firmino), reflect the danger and uncontrollable violence that comes from selling drugs and brandishing a gun. Rocket has the ambition to become a photographer and escape the murderous chaos within the slum. In contrast, Ze embraces a life of crime and rises to the top of the criminal hierarchy by killing all of his adversaries. The film begins with a flashback to the late 60's when the City of God was a relatively well organized housing project for the poor and dispossessed people of rural Brazil. Innocence and the harmless pastimes of childhood are lost from the start when Rocket recalls his early years. His older brother is already involved in petty theft and is beyond redemption in the eyes of his family and the police. Ze, even at a young age, displays a frightening pleasure to kill bystanders when robbing a small hotel with Rocket's brother and two other slum dwellers.

The two boys grow up and by the late 1970's armed gangs are in control of the lucrative drug trade that has become the only source of employment in the slum. The City of God has turned into a disaster, the mood of the film is darker, the appearance of the slum is uglier, with corrugated iron and tin shacks that have replaced the well manicured houses from the decade before. And, incredibly young hoodlums show no hesitation to use their handguns when settling disputes. At this stage Rocket is too frail for the gangster lifestyle, but realizes when we takes a menial job that an honest living is also a ticket to nowhere. Ze, on the other hand, is at the top of his trade and like most psychotic criminals is determined to punish all who cross him, regardless of how small the offence.

A glimmer of hope for Rocket becomes visible when he is commissioned by a daily newspaper to provide media coverage of the slum which is exploding with gang warfare. The film assumes a lighter, even amusing air when he has his first sexual experience with a fellow reporter. Although he is raised in the same environment as Ze, he does not allow himself to be swallowed by the endless cycle of violence. Things come to a head by 1980 when a full scale war is underway between the last two gangs, which proves to be fatal for Ze who is gunned down at the film's end. It's hard not to feel sympathy for him, a boy who probably didn't have any other choices in his life and also failed to see that a better life is possible.

Brilliant performances all around make for a evening of gripping entertainment. The cast, who are non-professional actors, were hand picked by the director Fernando Meirelles and the dialogue was almost entirely improvised. Taking a tour of a "favela" or slum that cover the hillsides around Rio de Janeiro are now possible, and conditions are improving, slowly. More and more houses are constructed with brick, and there are health care centres and schools. To truly understand the gap between the rich and poor in Brazil, visit Rocinha, Rio's largest favela with 500,000 residents.

Check out more of the best movies reviews and Hollywood entertainment news at Hollywood Insider.


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Dock West


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